30 November, 2011

30 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
30 November, 1944        1115

My dearest sweetheart –

Another morning coming to an end and sick call just about over with. This is the end of the month again and it marks the 8th month anniversary of our Engagement, dear. It doesn’t really seem so long to me for I still get the same thrill at the realization that I am actually engaged to you, darling. It is so much more pleasure to me when I write you and am aware of what you mean to me. If you yourself are not fully aware, dear, I’ll tell you again that you mean more to me than anything else in the world – and that, sweetheart, is a great deal.

The end of the month also means paying off the men and getting paid myself. I believe I told you that last month I sent all of my pay home; I didn’t miss it either. There’s nothing to spend it on. Playing Bridge now solely and no Poker – I can’t lose much. As a matter of fact, since we’ve started paying, I’m ahead a few dollars. No one ever loses or wins more then 2 or 3 dollars a night and very often we pay off or collect 4 or 5 marks. I’m a confirmed Bridge addict now and prefer it to Poker – whenever there’s a choice. There are about seven of us that play – and there’s a game almost every night.

29 November, 2011

29 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
29 November, 1944       1115
Good Morning, sweetheart –

We’ve been giving some more inoculations again this morning and that will keep us busy for the next few days. It’s a whole lot more trouble when we’re in the field than when we were in garrison – as you can easily imagine. But it gives us something to do and we don’t mind.

Last evening, after supper – before I forget it, let me tell you about our suppers of late. I don’t know how the Army does it – but we have been having some swell food in recent weeks. This past week starting with Turkey on Thanksgiving, we had chicken the next night, steak the next, then roast beef, then steak and tonight we have chicken again. If we get all this, the rest of the Army gets the sauce – and yet there are some guys who bitch at the food.

Anyway, after supper, we had a movie, the first in some time – it seems to me; the title – “Ladies in Washington” – with I don’t know whom. Suffice it to say, it was not Class A.

28 November, 2011

28 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
28 November,       1944
Dearest darling Wilma –

Well, I don’t know; There’s one thing about the war at this point, and that is – the Germans are catching more hell than we are, because in addition to their Army, the civilians are taking a beating. I can’t tell you how many civilians I’ve treated in the past couple of days – badly wounded civilians with serious injuries incurred from booby traps and anti-personnel mines – left behind by their own godammed army. It’s a pleasure to hear these same civilians curse their own soldiers for using tactics like that – because it certainly is a bastardly way to fight a war. Well, every mine exploded by a civilian – is one less we have to worry about. I guess I have about the busiest practice in town – and I think I’ll open an office in Filene’s – on the street floor after the war, dear. This central location of ours – with our Geneva Cross flying in the front and from the back door certainly keeps them coming – wounded, sick babies, old men, children with rashes, etc. Too bad I haven’t got an adjoining operating room – I could really have a field day.

We got some mail yesterday, darling, but I got two only, one from you and one from Eleanor. I’ve still got a bunch of them due me – but they’ll be coming in one of these days. What I’ve just written you, dear, is not to worry you – but merely in answer to one of your letters some time ago in which you hoped we were giving the Germans hell. If the papers say we are – you can believe them in that respect. Any single town that is defended – is being leveled by our artillery, and of course the Air Corps has already done a terrific job. This whole Rhineland is being devastated – and after the war they’ll be busy for years trying to build up some of their cities. I hope the other side of the Rhine catches a bit of the same medicine. If it does, Germany – as a modern, civilized country – will cease to exist.

27 November, 2011

27 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
27 November, 1944        1125

My dearest sweetheart –

Well, as I was saying yesterday, I’ve been pretty busy the last couple of days; particularly so yesterday. In the first place, as I wrote you dear, we are now working out of a large department store. It’s only a one story affair, but it occupies the width of perhaps 7 or 8 ordinary stores, and it is quite deep. We live upstairs in what was an apartment house. The Germans living there were told to scram – and although that sounds rather hard, darling – this is war and I can’t feel sorry for any one of them. In France and Belgium we couldn’t do that. Here – if we find an empty house – we just move in. If we need a spot because of the tactical situation, we so inform the military government and there’s no question asked – the people move out. Where they go – I don’t know, but they don’t argue with us. Of course our military government has said that we can’t be in the same house as Germans – or vice versa, and that makes it tougher on the Germans – because we sometimes have enough room for us and the Germans. It is so in this case, and thus, we’re occupying only about half this apartment house, but the other half is now empty. You don’t realize you are part of an invading Army until things like this occur. If we need stoves, for example, we inform our military government and they tell us where to go and get them – German stoves of course.

American Military Government Headquarters
Stolberg, Germany - December, 1944

26 November, 2011

26 November 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
26 November, 1944      1600

Hello Sweetheart!

This time I really only have a couple of minute’s time in which to write you, dear. It’s been and still is a very busy day from several points of view.

We are now moving our Dispensary on the main street of a fair-sized town – and above all places – inside a Department Store. Our particular section formerly was a ladies underwear department, so the boys have been trying on foundations etc. Most of them were too small for us, though.

Dispensary with a Red Cross Flag
Outside Closed Department Store
Stolberg, Germany 1944

25 November, 2011

25 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
25 November, 1944       1400

My dearest sweetheart –

It is actually 1415 now and I’ve just finished listening to the BBC newscast. Apparently there’s quite a war on, dear, although I don’t really need the radio to tell me that.

Today is Saturday again and this afternoon has just barely cleared out enough to have a football game – I mean if a game were scheduled. It’s quiet here now – outside and just another afternoon to kill. Afternoons have been rather un-busy these past several days – and consequently they pass very slowly. The evenings set in here now just about 1700-1715, as we’re finishing supper, and they’re long. It’s a good thing we’ve got into the habit of playing Bridge, for I’m finding that I manage to play about four nights a week anyway – and it sure does help pass an evening. We played last night and had some swell hands – including a Grand slam which my partner made – although I helped. It’s the first one I’ve ever taken part in, and I got quite a kick out of it.

I was wondering yesterday whether or not you got your Birthday present from me, darling; it seems like an awfully long time since I sent it out, but I haven’t heard a word from the APO – so I don’t know. Our APO is moving, by the way, and I suppose we won’t have any mail for another few days.

24 November, 2011

24 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
24 November, 1944       1100

Dearest sweetheart –

The day after Thanksgiving – and if I were the type that has a big ‘head’ – on the ‘day after’ – I’d have a big head. We really had a party, a good meal, and a good time. When I finished writing to you yesterday, it was about 1430. Having nothing much to do then, I wandered over to Headquarters battery office and found a couple of other officers sitting around. Almost from nowhere, dear, a bottle of Scotch appeared and knowing that the Colonel would not object on a Holiday afternoon – we got going on that. And then it started to come. Each new officer that appeared – after our calling him on the phone, had to bring a bottle of something, half-full, full – in other words, whatever he happened to have. Well darling, the collection included the following: Scotch, Cognac, Armagnac (stronger than Cognac), Champagne, Rhine River Wine, Cointreau, Eau de Vie (which is so strong that we use it for lighter fluid), and Benedictine. I can’t guarantee the order in which they appeared, but I can assure you – everything was consumed just as soon as it appeared. Of course – we ended up with about ten officers, including the Colonel whom we called at about 1600. By this time we were singing all the old songs, trying to harmonize and not succeeding. At 1700 we went over to eat. The enclosed Menu gives you an idea of how much trouble Hq. battery went to to make the meal a better one than most. We went back to Belgium and got a printer to make up the menus, we dug up enough table cloths to cover all our wooden tables and the meal was excellent. It actually included everything you see on the Card. Keep it, darling; I’d like to see it after the war.

Thanksgiving Day Menu, 1944

23 November, 2011

23 November 1944


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
23 November, 1944       1330

My dearest fiancée –

First of all, dear, a very Happy Birthday to you. Would that I could be with you now to look at you, hold you in my arms, kiss you and tell you I love you. We’re being cheated of so much, darling, it is maddening! I know you so well, I’m engaged to you, I love you so – and I haven’t helped you celebrate one of your birthdays yet – nor you – mine.

Missing a Holiday was always a tough thing, but missing you at a time when we should be celebrating – doesn’t seem fair at all. But this is Thanksgiving – and I’m thankful for all I do have. I guess that’s the best way to look at it, darling. We should be thankful that we have each other, no matter how far removed we are; thankful we are alive so that we can experience the poignancy of our emotion – which must of necessity be experienced at a distance. I’m thankful for you, Sweetheart, and for the fate that brought us together. And I’m thankful I’m in this war – alive and well.

This Thanksgiving will be a better one for us than was last year’s, despite the fact that we’re in enemy territory. Last Thanksgiving was the most miserable one I’ve ever experienced. I believe I told you we were on a train coming down from Scotland. We had K rations only; it was foggy, damp and cold. Everything was strange and lonesome – and believe me, dear, our morale was at a pretty low ebb. It’s not too bad today – considering everything. We’re having a Turkey dinner tonight at 1700; everyone who has any wine left at all is bringing it out and we’ll try to call it a celebration. The war is going on all about us here – as you probably know from the papers and the radio – but it’s funny how we’ve learned to forget about war when we want to, and project ourselves back to an old American custom. We’ve been reminiscing all day about last year – and the good old times before that. We’ll go right on doing that for the rest of the day – and tomorrow? Tomorrow will be just another day in the life of a soldier. We’ll be real again.

The weather here has continued to be abominable and it just doesn’t seem possible that it can be so constantly cloudy and wet. Right now outside my window – it’s coming down in buckets. I think we’re getting used to it though, for we rarely look up now to see if the clouds are breaking up or not.

There was a rumor that there was going to be some mail in tonight. I guess that will be about the best part of the Holiday for us – because we haven’t received mail for 4 days now and we miss it. The last mail I received contained no letter from you, dear. There was one from Charlie Wright – who is still at Fort Dix, New Jersey; and a letter from Mrs. Kerr – the elder – in Salem.

Before I close, Sweetheart, let me wish you the happiest of years, good health and good waiting. Do not forget for one single second, darling, that you have a fiancé who loves you as he has never loved anyone, who loves you and thinks of you constantly. I always shall, dear, and my greatest enjoyment in life will be to show you that love and make you love me even more than you do now. Love to the folks, dearest, so long for a while and

All my everlasting love,
Greg
P.S. Now that you’re 21 and a Major – I suppose we can really discuss intimate things from now on huh?
L.
Greg

P.P.S. OK, OK – that will be the last crack about your age!
L.
G.

* TIDBIT *

about Churchill's "America's Thanksgiving" Speech

22 November, 2011

22 November 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
22 November, 1944      1100
Hello Sweetheart –

Well I’m back again and ready for some more work. What with 2 letters to you – not Air Mail in the last 2 days and the V-mail, you’ll be short of mail for a short period, dear, but I’ll get going again tomorrow. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about – I’ve just returned from a 3-day pass in Belgium. It came as a surprise – and when the opportunity presented itself – I took it. It was a good change and I really relaxed – away from noise, etc.

Now I’m back and the work is really piled up for me. Therefore this short note, sweetheart, before I get started, because once I do – I’ll be busy all day. This may get out today. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and your Birthday, darling – and I’ll be missing you more than I can tell you. I love you dear and sure would like to be with you tomorrow – but enough of that –– for now. Will write more tomorrow

All my love
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about PFC Bernard F. Hillenbrand

21 November, 2011

21 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
21 November, 1944        1030
Good Morning, darling –

Well. I’m still on that 3-day pass – but this is the 3rd and final day. Of course – we still have the whole day ahead of us and we don’t go back until 0900 tomorrow.

It hasn’t been an hilarious time and yet – it has turned out much better than I expected and I’m glad cause it’s been a long time more than several hours in a row – and it’s an enjoyable sensation. The bunch of fellows from other outfits who happen to be here at the same time as we – turned out to be a very nice gang. There are Artillery, Engineer, Infantry, Armored Division etc. officers here – and you might think there’d be a lot of talk about recent events, personal accounts of action – and the like; but there hasn’t been. Everyone here seems intent on just relaxing, sleeping, eating – and I suppose I must confess, darling – drinking, too. The drinking situation is and isn’t like that in London when we had time off. It’s like it in that when you buy a drink, they charge you all sorts of prices, a bottle of cognac costs roughly $12.00, and when you buy one you find it has been diluted; the situation differs in that the Army has provided several opportunities for officers in combat in the forward areas to order liquor from time to time – and most of us brought some along. I brought some cognac and Scotch. We have one large lounge or living room – this is an apartment type hotel – and several of us sit around, drink, sing and reminisce about the good old days in the States. That by the way, Sweetheart, is the chief subject always – wherever soldiers are.

20 November, 2011

20 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
20 November, 1944       1315

My dearest sweetheart –

In the first place, I did not get a chance to write you yesterday and in the second place – it was Sunday and the stores were closed. But let me start at the beginning, dear.

For no reason at all – our Corps started giving 3 day passes to a city in Belgium. I’ve been there on business – before. Two passes were available for officers in our battalion – so the Colonel sent Lt. Bowman – our adjutant – and me. That was nice of him, considering it was not solicited. So without further ado, I packed my musette bag and away we went. The Army makes all arrangements and we were given a hotel room – fair – gratis; there is also an officers’ mess in town and a bar. That was yesterday. I didn’t bring stationery because I felt certain there would be some here; but I was wrong – and so I couldn’t write; Today I bought this – but I’m sending it ‘Free’ because no stamp service is available. We’ll be here until Wednesday a.m. and then a truck will pick us up; not bad for the middle of a war. Incidentally – all this happened last Saturday p.m. and we took off early Sunday – yesterday a.m.

19 November, 2011

19 November 1944

No letter today. Just this:

* TIDBIT *

about More from General Hodges


The snapshots that follow were taken from Normandy to Victory: The War Diary of General Courtney H. Hodges & the First U.S. Army, maintained by his aides Major William C. Sylvan and Captain Francis G. Smith Jr.; edited by John T. Greenwood, copyright 2008 by the Association of the United States Army, pp.178-180.


18 November, 2011

18 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
18 November, 1944       1030

My dearest Sweetheart –

I have to leave for one of the batteries this p.m. – so I’m trying to get this written now. Sick-call isn’t quite over yet, dear, but what is still around – is being taken care of by my men.

As I wrote you yesterday, I went back to Liège and saw Frank. He’s a Major now – got it in England; he was long overdue because he was chief of his department – Urology – and that calls for a majority. Anyway – it was over a year since I had seen him and we really had a lot to talk about. One of the first things he asked me about was you, darling. Yes – I was surprised too – and then he showed me a picture of you. He cleared it all up by explaining that his wife – Suzie – or Frances (the latter is her real name), had cut it out of the papers and mailed it to him. He still had it – and as you know, dear, – that was some time ago. Well – I told him all about you and the circumstance leading to our engagement and he wished us luck.

17 November, 2011

17 November 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
17 November, 1944
Dearest Sweetheart –

A year ago today I was sailing away. I’d like to be sailing right back – and the sooner the better. It’s 1600 hours right now and I’ve just come into the Dispensary having been away all day today. The reason: I took a trip back to Liège, Belgium in an attempt to locate Frank Morse. I found him, too – and gee – it was swell seeing someone from home. I hadn’t seen him for about 13 months or so – the last week in September – over a year ago. There were about half a dozen other officers I know from Boston, also – and we had a good time reminiscing. I got there before lunch, ate with them and spent another hour or so there. Then I had to head back – because it was raining, the roads were slippery – and it gets dark so darned early.

Now I’ve got several things to take care of and that’s why I’m writing you a V-mail. Tomorrow, too I should be busy – I’m supposed to visit another battery for 3 days – but I think I’ll make some changes. I’ll write more tomorrow, darling, but for now, so long and

All my everlasting love
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about One of the Many

16 November, 2011

16 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
16 November, 1944     1245

Hello, Sweetheart –

I’m trying to get an early start today and maybe I’ll succeed in writing a more coherent letter than I did yesterday. For the time being, dear, it’s quiet; I’ve just returned from lunch.

This morning – in fact – while I’m writing this, big things are going on all around us, but they’re big things on the part of the Americans – so everybody is happy. You’ll probably know what I mean by the time this reaches you.

Yesterday was just another day – and I guess that’s about all I can say of the past several weeks. The weather has been amazingly and uniformly rotten – and until this morning we hadn’t seen the sun for longer than 10 minutes at a time – for I don’t know how long. If Hitler ever had a potent secret weapon – it must have been the abominable weather that we’ve had ever since we approached the borders of Germany. Maybe we’ll get a break now. When we do, Herman the German will know he’s in a war again – and the People’s Army with him.

15 November, 2011

15 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
15 November, 1944      1300

My darling,

I got a letter from a friend of mine in Italy yesterday. When I was through reading it, I felt better. They’ve had everything we’ve had – but for two years – instead of one. So how can I complain? I hereby resolve not to complain i.e. not until the next time, darling.

There was no letter from you, dear, but one from my father in Ohio and one from Ruth. I was surprised at the latter, for I hadn’t heard from her in some time. She thanked me for the bracelet – or whatever you call that coin arrangement. I think she should have waited until she saw how much they would tarnish. It was good hearing from her though. I later in the evening wrote a joint letter to Ruth and Irv.

In the meantime – things are still rather quiet here and I think we’ll have to take out citizenship papers if we stay in this town much longer. Fortunately for us – it has been a comfortable spot and we’ve taken things right in stride. Naturally – there are plenty of poor fellows still outside – and it is for them that I feel most sorry. For instance dear, we awoke two days ago – to find about two inches of snow on the ground. Boy – it sure did seem like winter –

14 November, 2011

14 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
14 November, 1944       1435

Dearest darling Wilma –

As I wrote you yesterday, I got mail from you in the late p.m. and it made me very happy, so happy in fact that I later opened a bottle of cognac and played poker with the boys. Now I suppose you’re thinking I might have done that anyway; I confess, I might have – but you can’t prove, darling, that I would have been as happy – now, can you? Seriously, though – dear – it was so pleasant hearing from you again. I had only missed three days, but it seemed like a long, long time.

Lawrence’s letter told me more about the Halloran; he’s enjoying the place and I’m tickled – because he did find Tufts – so damned unbearable. He seems to have some pretty good boys with him and that helps a lot. That’s one of the reasons I find this outfit so boring at times. I mean the fact that I haven’t any really good companions here now – at headquarters. The boys I spent most time with at headquarters are not with the outfit now and I don’t have much chance to spend a great deal of time with the line officers, like Pete and a few others. The fellows here are O.K. -–but you probably know what I mean. Incidentally a few officers moved in near us a few days ago. They are with a pretty famous infantry division; I took care of a couple of them for minor things and one of the Captains invited me over to lunch with them this noon. I had a nice time and it was a pleasure to exchange ideas with another group of fellows for a change. After 2 years or more with the same gang, you get a little stagnant. I’m going to drop up and visit them at their quarters one of these evenings.

Greg's brother, Lawrence in uniform
with their parents, Pauline and Lewis

13 November, 2011

13 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
13 November, 1944        1300

My dearest sweetheart –

Monday again and what will this week bring to help shorten the war? We wonder from week to week but I suppose the big-wigs have it all figured out and you’ll no doubt read about it in the papers. Meanwhile we’re carrying on as usual, dear, only I’m finding that I miss home and you more and more these days. I thought I was quite hardened to being away from home, sweetheart, but I guess I never will be and despite the heartache – I’m glad; because I want to go on missing you and the families every day until I get back. I want to be acutely aware of you when I have you again – and so, darling – I must go on missing you and wanting you.

We haven’t received any mail for a few days and could very well do with a little. Delivery will probably be spotty though until after Christmas. I’m pretty well caught up with my correspondence except for 3 or 4 letters I should answer. That reminds me – one letter as yet unanswered, is from Nin. I have a Newton address, but as I understand it, she’s down South. Shall I write her down there, and if so, what is her address?

Yesterday p.m. it was raw and cold out but as I wrote already, we were in dire need of a shower. Well I looked up the spot on a map where there was supposed to be one set-up, but we rode all over the place and finally found one in another location altogther. That happens very frequently; a shower-point is set-up, the map coordinates are published on an administrative order, you track down the spot – and nothing is there. Then you just ride around asking G.I.’s if they’ve seen one around. Anyway after driving about 20 odd miles we did manage to get a nice warm shower and we just did get back before dark. So I’m clean again, dear, and fit to write to you. In the evening we just sat around the Dispensary. We had some grapefruit juice so I produced a bottle of gin I’ve had for some time and the Medical Detachment had a couple of drinks. I got to bed early and was uninterrupted.

12 November, 2011

12 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
12 November, 1944        1015

My dearest sweetheart –

It’s a gloomy Sunday morning here, gray and drizzly and were I home now I guess I’d be reading the “funnies” and staying indoors. There hasn’t been much of a sick call so far this morning and that’s why I have a little time to write right now. A little later I’ve got to see a couple of civilian patients and by that time it will be noon and time to eat, I suspect.

I have the prospects of a good Sunday dinner, though – roast chicken. The lady of the house where I stay believes I was instrumental in keeping new troops here from moving into her house and moving her out. Actually – I had very little to do with it, dear, but anyway – as I was leaving the place this a.m. – she called me and showed me a chicken about to be roasted and told me it was for me. When it’s done – I’ll bring it over to the Dispensary where a few of us will make short work of it. One of the boys will make some French fries – we have bread, butter and mustard, I believe – so you see, darling, it’s not so tough in the E.T.O.

11 November, 2011

11 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
11 November, 1944       1420

Hello again, darling!

I mean – since yesterday. Armistice Day today and what to do about it – let’s put out the light and go to bed. No, No – on second thought, yes! yes! I guess that, plus the Armistice – will have to wait a while, dear, but it should be worth waiting for. I think the Germans will probably remember this Armistice Day more than we will, unless I’m mistaken.

Last night I had a pretty quiet evening. When I finished my letter writing, I read a little – Time Magazine – and at 2100 I went to my quarters. I listened to the radio for about an hour and then fell asleep. It was a very quiet night – almost ominously so – and I found myself awakening at 0400 for no apparent reason; I guess I just wasn’t tired. I slept a total of about another hour between then and 0745 and then I got up. This a.m. I went out to A Battery again and returned here at 1100 and took care of a couple of patients. Our noon meal was delayed awhile due to a couple of minor incidents, but we finally got it. This afternoon I’d like to see a snappy football game, but instead I’ll stick around the Dispensary, darling, and write you. Now don’t pout, dear, I did not say I’d rather go to a game than write you. I guess you know dear that I love to write you more than anything else I do of a day – except possibly to read your letters – and I sure love that.

10 November, 2011

10 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
10 November, 1944       1910

Dearest darling Wilma –

Well – after chasing around another day, here I am free for awhile and trying to relax by writing you, dear. It seems as if I’ve been jumping around quite a bit the past 36 hours or so, but I haven’t really traveled very far at all. I was again at A battery today and once more I didn’t get going until fairly late in the a.m. due to sick call and civilian patients. The latter are really keeping me busy, dear, and I’m seeing everything from impetigo and eczema to streptococcic sore throats and the hives. It’s welcome, for a change, too – and I’m beginning to feel like a doctor once again. But it’s odd how the minute you start practicing – so soon do you start doing night work. Last night I got into bed a little after 2100, listened to a program and a half and then started to drop off to sleep when someone began to ‘bang’ at the door, and sure enough it was a call for me. My first reaction is “the hell with them,” but dammit – I weaken right away. So – I dressed and went out and what a lousy night it was! I saw a woman who had had a severe chill and with no apparent cause; temp and pulse were normal and yet she didn’t look quite right. By the time I was through asking her questions, examining her and then getting some medicine for her – it was just after midnite, darling. Now – see what you’re in for? And I don’t even get paid for it, either – although my patients have given me all the butter and eggs I can possible eat. My ‘mother and baby’ – by the way – are doing fine and today I saw my name as the delivering doctor – on a German Birth Certificate. The boy will be named – you guessed it dear – Fritz.

09 November, 2011

09 November 1944

V-MAIL

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
9 November, 1944

Hello darling –

It’s 1700 and I’ve just got back from a busy day visiting one of our batteries. I’d no sooner go out when I’d get a call to come back to see a patient; that happened twice; then I got a call to come back because some officers were looking over the house where I was billeted with a view to moving in. So I dashed back again to protect my rights – and succeeded. Everyone is trying to get indoors – and you practically have to stand guard – not to lose your ‘home’. I went back to the Battery again, but by this time I had lost all interest in inspecting and I headed back here. And my spirits picked up tremendously when I read your letter of the 26th, sweetheart. Your letters sure do give me a lift, dear, – and I thought you knew that. I love what you write, how you write it – and I guess – everything else about you. Will stop for now and try to write more tomorrow. Love to the folks – and so long for now.

All my deepest love
Greg


* TIDBIT *

about What General Hodges was Writing

08 November, 2011

08 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
8 November, 1944       1040

Good Morning, darling!

Well – we’ve been getting short election returns on the hour since 0700 this morning and it looks as if our man made it. The last flash at 1000 conceded 36 states to Roosevelt and said that Dewey had already congratulated the President. I’m glad that all that is over with because I have a suspicion we’ll really get going now, dear. I think the majority of the soldiers wanted to see Roosevelt re-elected whether they like him or not.

Yesterday was another quiet day here and I took care of routine duties most of the day. In case you’re not sure what those are, sweetheart, I’ll tell you. First of all – they are never the same. On the whole, though, when I am around it means supervising sick call, answering the phone a dozen times in the morning, telling this battery commander or that what is wrong with a soldier or where an injured soldier has been evacuated. Before I know it – it’s noon. In the p.m. I very often speak with the Colonel about some situation or other in one of the Batteries – concerning sanitation health and morale. For some reason or other he thinks I’m a good judge of the latter and he often asks me about that. In the late p.m. our daily S-2 report comes in and we study that quite carefully because it has a great deal of information on it these days. Then it is supper time and after that – either Bridge or a little reading. Last nite I read a Medical Journal and then got to bed early. My routine duties were never so organized as they have been the past several weeks – but that’s because we haven’t been tearing cross-country for some time, pretty soon though – I hope, dear.

07 November, 2011

07 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
7 November, 1944       1300

My dearest sweetheart –

I got two swell letters from you yesterday – the only two the medical detachment received – by the way – and I’m getting caught up now a bit on your mail, dear. I hope mine is coming through to you a bit better too. You remark in one of your letters that “so long for now” is a G-I expression, or so you believe. I’ve always used those words, dear, and I don’t think I picked it up in the Army – but I’ve been in so damned long now – I really don’t remember a good many things about my civilian days. Do you realize, sweetheart, that you have never known me as a civilian but only as a soldier? I wonder how you’ll find me? As a matter of fact, I wonder how I’ll find myself. I guess every soldier finds himself thinking about that. It will be strange wearing different colored socks, and a tie around our necks. It’s a year since I’ve had one on – except of course when we had a pass in England. And I’m getting a little tired of this damned brownish-green stuff we wear. Every now and then I open my val-a-pac and air out my pinks and blouse; it’s so darned damp here we have to watch out for molds. They sure look fancy compared to the way we look these days. Now how did I get started on that? I’ll be crying on someone’s shoulder if I don’t stop – and I don’t really feel that way at all. You’ll marry me in uniform too – won’t you dear? I really think that once we get back to the States we’ll be de-mobilized quickly anyway.

I forgot all about the statement of mine concerning AA and the Pacific, dear. I wrote that to your mother and apparently forgot to mention it to you. And it wasn’t just a statement by a yokel – it was made by the commanding General of all AA – who happened to be on a tour over here and visited our battalion. He ought to be in a position to know. There was a time in our early days in Normandy when we were all worrying about that. There was so little of the Luftwaffe around for us to shoot at we figured we might be transferred. But later on we started getting targets and the artillery and infantry have recognized our value, I think. I’m worried more about the possibility of Lawrence having to go to the Pacific theater. I shouldn’t like that at all.

I didn’t know Red Perkins – but it’s a sad tale just the same. It’s the same old story – the folks at home are the ones that catch the most hell. That thought, incidentally dear, has always worried me more than anything else since I’ve been a soldier, and more recently since I’ve been in a combat area.

06 November, 2011

06 November 1944


438th AAA AW BN

APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
6 November, 1944       1305

Dearest sweetheart –

We’re really missing all the pre-election ballyhoo over here and it’s already the 6th – with tomorrow the big day. I hope it will be Roosevelt because the German propaganda on the radio has been terrific, and if he should perchance lose no one would be happier than the Nazis who would certainly push the fact down our throats. It’s for that reason more than any other that I hope Roosevelt is re-elected. I think the conduct of the war would be little affected if Dewey became President, although Roosevelt is undoubtedly the stronger man for post-war days.

Yesterday, darling, was another quiet day and I remained close to battalion all day. I had a couple more private patients and a few of our own boys showed up for sick-call. My newly delivered mother is doing fine – as is the baby, by the way. In the p.m. Headquarters made another attempt to show “The Primitive Man” – and the projector was O.K. I got more of a kick out of the picture than I expected – it was just slap-stick enough to cause us to chuckle and it helped pass a couple of otherwise boring hours. The evening was especially dull – and I got into bed at nine; I was kind of tired from being up the night before on that delivery. I listened to the news and then heard a re-broadcast of a Charlie McCarthy program – and before I knew it – I was off to sleep – undisturbed except for one short interval.

This morning I was up early and almost went to Liege with a patient – but I sent my driver in alone. I thought I might look around and buy something but changed my mind when I heard what one of our officers had to say. He had just come back from a 5 day trip in which he went after our monthly liquor ration. He spent two days in Paris and raved about the city, its life, etc. I’ve heard that from several sources now and it must be true. All agree that London and New York have to take second place to Paris. But they have gone haywire on prices; cognac is 80 francs ($1.60) for less than an ounce, beer is 40 francs a glass, and goods in the stores are practically beyond reach. What makes everyone sore is that all prices in legitimate markets have been established or O.K.’ed by the Civil Government – under American control. They’re really racketeering – are the Frenchmen and I guess the way they figure it – it’s a long time between wars. Anyway – I sent all my last month’s pay home to be deposited – although I could cash a check if I had a chance to take off for a day or two.

Say – dear – I know I can’t stop you from worrying – but I don’t want you to worry about me too much. There was a time you wrote me that you didn’t worry, you had faith – and all would be all right. Well you better go back to that way of thinking sweetheart, because it’s healthier in the long run. I’m all right and taking good care of myself, and what is more – I plan to continue to do the same. I have faith, too, and what is also very very important, dear, I have a goal in life, I have something worthwhile to come home to – and I want to come home to that very very much; that makes all the difference in the world, darling, so just sit back and relax a bit – because all will be well some day and we’ll both have what we want more than anything else in the world – each other.

All for now, dear; my love to the folks and

All my everlasting love,
Greg.

* TIDBIT *

about Franklin Delano Roosevelt's
1944 Run for the Presidency

From The Miller Center at the University of Virginia's American President: A Reference Resource comes this summary of the Presidential Election of 1944:

In 1944, in the midst of war, Roosevelt made it known to fellow Democrats that he was willing to run for a fourth term. Democrats, even conservative southerners who had long been suspicious of FDR's liberalism, backed Roosevelt as their party's best chance for victory. FDR received all but 87 of the votes of the 1,075 delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The real intrigue came with the Democratic nomination for vice president. FDR decided against running with his current vice president, the extremely liberal Henry Wallace, fearing that Wallace's politics would open a rift in the party between liberals (concentrated in the northeast) and conservatives (largely hailing from the south.) Instead, Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, who had the backing of the south, the big-city bosses in the party, and at least the tacit approval of FDR, took the vice-presidential nomination.

Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey, the popular governor of New York State, chosen with only one Republican delegate voting against him. Dewey ran as a moderate Republican, promising not to undo the social and economic reforms of the New Deal, but instead to make them more efficient and effective. Dewey, like Willkie four years earlier, was an internationalist in foreign affairs, voicing support for a postwar United Nations. One of Dewey's most effective gambits was to raise discreetly the age issue. He assailed the President as a "tired old man" with "tired old men" in his cabinet, pointedly suggesting that the President's lack of vigor had produced a less than vigorous economic recovery.

FDR, as most observers could see from his weight loss and haggard appearance, was a tired man in 1944. But upon entering the campaign in earnest in late September, 1944, Roosevelt displayed enough passion and fight to allay most concerns and to deflect Republican attacks. With the war still raging, he urged voters not to "change horses in mid-stream." Just as important, he showed some of his famous campaign fire. In a classic speech before the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, FDR belittled the Republican attacks on him. In recalling the charges from a Minnesota congressman who accused FDR of sending a battleship to Alaska to retrieve his dog Fala, FDR had this to say:


05 November, 2011

05 November 1944


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
5 November, 1944       1100

My dearest darling Wilma –

I’ve just finished sick-call and I thought I’d get started on this before lunch. I’ve been kept busy the past 24 hours or so and there’s no telling when I’ll be interrupted. There was no mail yesterday for anyone. In the evening we were supposed to have a movie – something called “The Primitive Man”. We never did get to see it because something went wrong with our projector – so we ended up playing bridge again, drinking a bit of Rhine Wine – and spent a pleasant evening. I was disturbed by a couple of little things before finally getting to sleep. In the middle of the night, 0315 to be exact, I was awakened by a tapping on my window; I was sure it was parachutists – but dammit – I had left my pistol in the dispensary. Anyway I yelled out and heard a woman’s voice and the voice of one of our guards. There was a woman about to have a baby and they needed a doctor. I didn’t know the woman, but we’ve been in town long enough now so that everyone, I guess, knows where the ‘Herr Doktor’ lives. It’s been a long long time since I’ve been called on a civilian night case. I got up, went over to the Dispensary and managed to get together a kit. The delivery was easy and all went well. The mother had a nice little baby boy – about 7 lbs I should say – and she was happy because she had 3 girls. The father, incidentally, is dead – about 2 months ago, I believe. As I walked back to my room I couldn’t help but appreciate the paradox of our being here to kill Germans – and yet bringing new ones into the world who may be fighting in some other war. Oh well – he’ll be named Fritz – after his father – and he really is a cute baby.

In one of your letters of last month, dear, you mentioned you were surprised that I might be willing to leave the lucky 438th to join a hospital perhaps. I admit – that was a change in policy for me, but the longer we stay in a war area, sweetheart, the more aware you become that there just isn’t such a thing as a lucky outfit; everyone gets his share – from what I’ve been able to observe. That reminds me – you also mentioned that Les was now in France. Do you know his outfit – or address? See if you can get it for me, dear, – you never can tell, I may be able to look him up. And also by the way, dear, who told you I was near Aachen? Yes, it did keep us up, – and more than that.

You really gave me a comfortable insight into home life one day when you wrote about my coming home after a hard day’s work and relaxing, etc. One thing you must remember, though, and that is that a doctor doesn’t come home – very often his day is right at home – and even if his office is in another spot, he is still at home part of the day. In other words, darling, you’ll have to see me on and off during the day as well as at night. Will that be all right? But the picture of us – even in the mind – spending a quiet evening at home – sure is a pleasant vision and oh how often I think about it! And don’t you worry about my being lonesome these days; there’s nothing you can do more than you are, dear, and that is to continue to write me the sweet and thoughtful things you do. That’s all I want and need right now.

You mentioned your Birthday present and being excited about it. I hope you won’t be disappointed – but it was all that was available. Incidentally – I do hope it gets to you. There are now two parcels on the way – it’s over two weeks now, I guess. I haven’t had them returned and I just hope they get through. Oh yes – neither parcel is marked in such a way that you could tell which is your present – so you can consider either one as it; better still – if you get them – call them both your Birthday gift.

Well, darling, I was not interrupted, but now it is near time to eat and I’d better be off. So I’ll say so long once more – but only in writing – because actually, dear, I am with you every part of the day – in every sense of the word – except physical.

Regards and love to the folks – and

My sincerest love –
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about Schmidt, Kommerscheidt and Vossenack
3-5 November 1944



Perhaps the most comprehensive collection of materials concerning "The Battle of the Huertgen Forest" is found on Scorpio's Website. Most of the following has been extracted from various parts of that site.
Schmidt
While the successful capture of Vossenack on 3 November 1944 had earned praise from the 28th Division commander, Major General Cota, the failure of 1/112 (1st Battalion, 112th Infantry) to cross the Kall, or even advance much past Germeter, had been disappointing. The next day, 3/112 had been chosen to lead the next attempt. The new plan had called for a movement through Vossenack, bypassing the defended woods to cross the Kall at the Mestrenger Muhle (shown on the map above) and then move on Schmidt. 1/112, less B Company, would follow the 3rd Battalion, and Armored 707th Tank Battalion was to support the entire operation. This time, the attack had been startlingly successful, with the German defenders in Schmidt caught by surprise and driven out handily.

A state of euphoria had swept the division and corps headquarters. Unfortunately, the 3rd Battalion had been the only unit from the 112th that had reached Schmidt on 3 November. The battalion also had been without armor support. The only route into Schmidt open to the division had been the Kall Trail and this route had been proving to be nearly impassable for armor. The 3rd Battalion had been dangerously exposed and its only anti-tank weapons had been mines and bazookas. Its soldiers had become cold, wet, and exhausted. Leaders and soldiers alike had sought out warm buildings during the night and had prepared only the most rudimentary of defenses. The battalion had sent out no patrols during the night leaving the commander blind to what was around his bunk.

The 109th and the 110th had made no progress on 3 November. In the south, tough German defenses had continued to hold the 110th in check. Casualties for the regiment had mounted steadily. The infantry units, unsupported by tanks, had continued to force the assault despite the heavy casualties. By the end of the day, they still had had nothing to show for their sacrifices. In the north the initial success of the 109th also had ground to a halt. At dawn the 109th had fought off two counterattacks and subsequently had canceled plans for its own attack toward the town of Huertgen. Much like the forward elements of the 112th, the 109th had found itself surrounded on three sides by well dug-in defenders.

Then, in the early hours of 4 November, disaster had struck when a strong German counterattack, composed of armor from the 116th Panzer Division and infantry forces from the 89th Infantry Division, had attacked the 3rd Battalion in Schmidt just after dawn. German artillery had conducted a brief but fierce shelling of the town immediately prior to the German assault. The shelling had stunned the American infantry in their hastily prepared positions.

The German infantry had followed the shelling by attacking the town from almost every angle. German tanks, impervious to the bazooka fire of the American infantrymen, had followed close on the heels of the attacking infantry. Due to communications difficulties, American artillery had not begun to provide support until the German attack was over an hour old. Confusion within the 3/112th had grown rapidly and soon had turned into panic. Soldiers had begun to flee for the woods and leaders had lost all semblance of control. In little more than three hours of fighting the Germans had recaptured Schmidt and the 3/112th had ceased to exist as an effective combat force.

Kommerscheidt
The German counterattack next had struck the 1/112th, defending the village of Kommerscheidt. Here the American defenses had been better prepared and had had armor support in the form of three Sherman tanks. Leaders also had rounded up and put into the line approximately 200 of the panic-stricken soldiers from Schmidt. The defenders had beaten back the German attack, though not without substantial losses. Early the next morning, nine tank destroyers and six tanks had further reinforced the position at Kommerscheidt. This discouraged any immediate German efforts to launch another counterattack on Kommerscheidt.

Meanwhile, in the Kall gorge the Germans had gained the upper hand. They had infiltrated the main supply route and had mined the trail, leaving both the 3d Platoon, Company B, 20th Engineers, and two squads of the 3d Platoon, Company C, 20th Engineers, unaccounted for. Company A, 20th Engineers, was still virtually intact in a defensive bivouac near the entrance of the trail into the woods southeast of Vossenack. A four-man security guard was presumably still at the Kall bridge, but for all practical purposes the enemy controlled the vital river bridge. The 28th Division's G-2 Periodic Report for 5 November, in making estimates of enemy capabilities, had failed to mention the possibility of enemy action coming down either end of the undefended Kall gorge.

The Kall Trail, from Vossenack toward Kommerscheidt

Vossenack
At Vossenack the situation was perhaps worst of all, though its seriousness was perhaps not so readily apparent. Remnants of the 2d Battalion, 112th Infantry, still held the town, but they had been subjected to three days and four nights of murderous fire from German artillery, self-propelled guns, and mortars. The men had undergone about all they could stand.

Early in the morning the 2d Squad of the 1st Platoon, Company F, under Staff Sergeant Charles W. Cascarano, in position at the head of a shallow wooded draw leading into the positions on the east, saw about twenty Germans moving in a column of twos through the wooded draw toward its positions. The squad's automatic rifleman sprayed the Germans with fire, wounding nine, killing four, and putting the rest to flight. The wounded Germans lay where they had fallen for about: four or five hours, moaning and crying, before five German medics with a cart: picked them up.

The enemy shelled the open ridge with artillery from the direction of the Brandenberg-Bergstein ridge and with self-propelled guns and tanks, sometimes firing twenty or thirty rounds at one foxhole before shifting targets. The men noticed no lessening in the fire even when American planes were overhead. In the Company E area, four men who were using a barn for shelter were buried in an avalanche of baled hay when the upper part of the barn collapsed from a direct artillery hit. Frantic efforts by others of the company to dig out the men were unavailing, and the building burned.

Just before dark enemy shelling methodically wiped out six men in two-man foxholes of Company G along the trail that was an extension of the town's main street. When the men near by saw their companions blown to bits, some pulled back to the houses, leaving an undefended gap of more than a hundred yards in the center of the defense. Efforts by officers of both Company G and Company F to fill this gap went for nought. The troops ordered into the holes, utterly fatigued, their nerves shattered, many of them crying unashamedly, would return to the dubious protection of the houses.

The regular Company E commander, 1st Lt. Melvin R. Barrilleaux, who had returned the night before from a Paris leave, visited his platoons after dark. He found most of his men so affected by the shelling that he felt they all should be evacuated. Many were in such a shocked, dazed condition that the platoon leaders had to order them to eat, and one platoon leader was himself evacuated for combat exhaustion. Virtually the same situation existed in the other three companies.

The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Theodore S. Hatzfeld, had himself become a virtual combat exhaustion case. He insisted on remaining at his post, but Captain John D. Pruden, the battalion executive officer, conducted the major command functions. The company commanders reported the situation to battalion; battalion informed them it was being reported to regiment; and no relief came.

04 November, 2011

04 November 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
4 November, 1944       0930

My dearest darling –

There were very few letters in the mail yesterday – but I got three of them and all from you, dear, and the latest was written 20 October. That made the rest of the day a success, darling, because I love the content of your letters. The fact is that the way you express yourself, sweetheart, is very satisfying to one who has to be separated from the one he loves. You often write that you ‘feel’ something and can’t make it clear to me. Well you’re all wrong, darling, because I understand all that you say and I love the way you say it. Certainly love is a peculiar thing in the way it makes you feel inadequate. I often feel as if I were the luckiest fellow in the world and I want to tell you about it, yet when I write it and read what I’ve written, it seems to fall short. But over a period of time, dear, I think the message gets across – I believe so anyway.

I was especially interested in your letter of 17 October, dear. You had just been out for a walk by yourself and had done some good thinking. That’s the only time a person can really clear his mind, I think – when he’s alone – and in the open. Being outside makes a good deal of difference, too, because it seems as if your thoughts can really expand. I used to do that a great deal when I was in Salem and the war has allowed me ample opportunity to continue. Of course – I’m a rather introspective person, anyway, but practically so – I believe. I didn’t know you well enough, dear, before I left – to know whether you were introspective too. I’ve come to find out since – that you are – and I’m glad – because a person who can be introspective – can usually think things out.

Marriage is supposed to make two people intimate – but I’m afraid that more often than not that intimacy is sexual only – and if that’s all it gives – then you’re better off not married. The intimacy must involve an understanding of every like and dislike, of every thought – if possible – and certainly an understanding of every mood. No two people – except two mentally diseased perhaps – can live together, without some difference of opinion, some contralateral likes or dislikes; but if they can realize that fact, occasionally give ground, wait until a mood has passed – those two people can live happily. From what I can gather from your letters – I didn’t know you in the States long enough to find out – I know we’re going to be happy. Why did I want to become engaged to you then – you may wonder? The answer is that I saw it in you letters right from the start. I know so much more about you from our correspondence, darling, than I do from our being together – but we were together long enough to complete the picture. No – you are not too idealistic, dear; on the contrary – you are being very realistic in stating what you want. I’ll try not to disappoint you. I know we’ll belong to each other in every sense of the word.

The letter of the 17th also included your transcription of some cartoons, sweetheart, which I enjoyed. You’re really ambitious to take the trouble to do it, dear – and I appreciate it. And now I see some patients coming to visit me and I’ll have to stop now. Today it was I who rambled on – but from all of it – you must realize how much I love you and want you, darling – because I do – with all my heart. You shall see – So long for now, dear, love to the folks – and

My everlasting love
Greg.

* TIDBIT *

about Evacuation from the Line

Extracted from the U.S. Army Medical Department's Office of Medical History's web site comes "The Fight for the Huertgen Forest" as extracted from United States Army in World War II, The Technical Services, The Medical Department: Medical Service in the European Theater of Operations, by Graham A. Cosmas and Albert E. Cowdrey, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1992.
From the place on the battlefield where the aidmen treated a casualty and marked his position, ETO divisional medical installations and hence the chain of evacuation stretched rearward over a considerable distance. By late 1944 battalion aid stations typically set up at least a mile behind the engaged infantry and armor elements, to reduce losses from artillery and mortar fire among essential, hard-to-replace doctors and technicians. Collecting stations usually took position about a mile back of the aid stations. Clearing stations remained 3 to as many as 15 miles behind the fighting line, to be free of the patient-disturbing noise and counterbattery fire danger or their own corps and division artillery.

Since the Battle of the Hedgerows they had used collecting company ambulances, supplemented by trucks for walking wounded, to evacuate their battalion aid stations. By late autumn they routinely extended motor transport forward of the aid stations as well, whenever possible right to the place where casualties lay on the battlefield. Medics now used jeeps, belonging to battalion aid stations and collecting companies, in preference to litterbearers, for moving wounded in the forward areas. Fitted with brackets for carrying litters, these small sturdy vehicles could go most places men on foot could; they could accommodate two or three litters each, and as many ambulatory patients as ingenious drivers could crowd on board. When their jeeps bogged down in mud and snow, medics often switched to the M-29 Weasel, a small tracked cargo vehicle that had about the same litter capacity as the jeep. Armored division surgeons used light tanks and tank retrievers to move their wounded over ground impassable to jeeps and regular ambulances.
Evacuation Jeep and Weasel fitted with litters
[Click to enlarge]
Infantry battalion and collecting company litterbearers (the latter all but supplanted by ambulances for work to the rear of the aid stations) customarily combined forces to remove wounded from the battlefield. They were far too few for the job during intense combat and when weather, terrain, or the tactical situation prevented vehicles from assisting them. The Huertgen fighting, in particular, absorbed bearers at an almost intolerable rate. The 1st Infantry Division, during its time in the forest, used 240 additional litterbearers; the 4th Division employed 140. The 68th Medical Group, for example, which supported the VII Corps, provided infantry divisions in the Huertgen Forest with over 450 reinforcement bearers, including the enlisted personnel of two entire collecting companies.

Litter bearers in the Huertgen Forest

In especially difficult tactical situations, infantry battalion and collecting company medics resorted to all manner of expedients to keep evacuation going. Such was the case during the disastrous attack of the 28th Infantry Division in the Huertgen Forest early in November. In this operation the 1st and 3d Battalions of the 112th Infantry seized a salient of key high ground around the villages of Schmidt and Kommerscheidt, deep in German-held territory, and then came under heavy infantry, tank, and artillery counterattack from three sides.

Attack on Schmidt from three sides
[Click to enlarge]

The battalions' route of supply and evacuation consisted of a narrow trail, muddy from the incessant rain, which wound its way down into the gorge of the Kall River and then up another ridge to the American-held town of Vossenack, some 2 miles northwest of Kommerscheidt. Vossenack itself was under intense German infantry attack, as well as artillery bombardment from high ground to its northeast.

The battalion surgeons, Captains Paschal A. Linguiti, MC, of the 1st and Michael De Marco, MC, of the 3d, faced a difficult evacuation problem. Ambulances from their supporting collecting company could not negotiate the trail across the Kall.

Tank Destroyers on the muddy Kall Trail

Hence, the battalions had to send casualties back in jeeps and weasels to an ambulance loading point near the top of the ridge at Vossenack. Linguiti initially set up his 1st Battalion aid station in a basement in Kommerscheidt; De Marco, with his 3d Battalion station, took position about a mile farther to the rear, west of the Kall, sheltered in a cave-like 18-by-12-foot dugout built into the steep hillside that bordered the trail. The station in Kommerscheidt in effect functioned as an advance collecting point; it sent wounded in whatever vehicles were available to the 3d Battalion installation for relay on up the hill to the ambulance loading point.

Battalion Aid Station personnel readying
casualties for evacuation farther to the rear

As the American position at Schmidt and Kommerscheidt deteriorated, so did the evacuation situation. Linguiti and De Marco consolidated their two aid stations in the dugout. Litter patients, eventually about sixty-five of them, accumulated in and around the dugout. Linguiti and De Marco cared for them as best they could, helped by their MAC assistant surgeons, the battalion chaplains, a dwindling contingent of enlisted medics, and infantry stragglers whom the surgeons disarmed and pressed into service as attendants and litterbearers. The medics had adequate food for their patients and enough medical supplies for what little treatment they were attempting, but they were short of blankets and shelter. The dugout could accommodate only about twenty-five patients. The remainder, wrapped in what coverings were available, lay along the trail in the cold, rain, and snow, protected by soldiers holding Red Cross flags. This protection was needed because, during the final days of the battle, German troops infiltrating behind the 1st and 3d Battalions periodically visited the aid station. However, except for announcing that the medics were captured and making sure that no armed Americans were present, the Germans left the facility unmolested. They allowed American walking wounded to reach the station and at one point offered Linguiti and De Marco food and medicine, which the surgeons declined. Nevertheless, the Germans did confiscate the aid station's few vehicles.

After the survivors of the 1st and 3d Battalions withdrew from Kommerscheidt on the night of 8-9 November, in the process inundating the aid station with a final stream of walking and litter-borne casualties, Linguiti and De Marco and their staff and patients remained within German lines. The enemy evidently had neither the means nor the inclination to remove the American doctors and wounded. The local German commander agreed to a truce, proposed by the 112th Infantry's surgeon, Maj. Albert L. Berndt, MC, for removal of both sides' casualties from the Kall valley. Under this arrangement the battalion surgeons, after further adventures with a German unit not party to the truce, eventually managed to assemble a makeshift truck and weasel convoy to carry themselves, the other medical officers and men, the chaplains, and the severely wounded back to American lines. However, they had to surrender the lightly wounded and their non-medical personnel as prisoners of war.

03 November, 2011

03 November 1944


438th AAA AW BN

APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
3 November, 1944         1400

My dearest sweetheart –

What with missing one day and writing a short V-mail the next, I really feel as if I’ve been out of touch with you for some time, dear. I got back from my visit to B Battery about noon today and all in all I had a pretty good time. I’ve probably told you before that I like the officers in this battery better than in any other – and that’s why I enjoy visiting them for a few days. They had a pretty good set-up where they were, comfortable, warm and with good beds. We sat around in the evening, listened to the radio and played some cards.

I told you I got back to one of the Belgian cities. I was amazed at the amount of business being done and the variety of articles being sold. There were 2 department stores in town – and the way they fix their windows and display their goods – is really something to see. It just doesn’t seem possible that these people have been in a 5-years war. When you examine the material they are selling, however, you find that most of it is ersatz. Anyway, darling, we did manage to buy a dish of ice-cream and it wasn’t too bad – although it was a far cry from a banana split – for instance.

I returned here to find there had been no mail for anyone for the past 2 days – despite the fact that the Stars and Stripes mentioned the other day that thousands of sacks of mail were arriving in France daily; ours must be on the way. The days roll by and here it is the end of the week again; it doesn’t seem possible that with our being apart so long, sweetheart, that time can be flying by so rapidly. It’s almost a year now – and how I remember my sweating it out back there at Camp Edwards. I’m glad that that is all behind us – but a lot of nice things did happen to us in that time – so we can’t complain too much, dear.

I’ve often thought of that time when it almost seemed as if you’d get down to New York that week-end. Remember you knew someone who lived up on the Hudson near that camp? You guessed correctly – I was at that Camp. At that time I felt that after all – it was best you didn’t come down – but I’ve thought of it countless times since – and I’m sorry you didn’t, sweetheart. You can see now how much every hour – or every evening meant – and you can also see that it wouldn’t have made things any more difficult. The Lord knows, darling, I miss you no less because you stayed away. Oh well – we’ll have that week-end in New York some day and many more too.

The other day – and don’t laugh dear! – I got to thinking of where we might spend our honeymoon. Is that premature wishful thinking? Don’t answer! That’s the truth, though, and you must admit – it’s food for pleasant thought. Although I imagine it’s my duty to think of the place – I’ll tell you now dear – that I’m going to let you decide. I’ve done a lot of traveling in the past couple of years and you can pick the spot you want to go to. Anywhere within reason will be all right with me. As has been said before, it’s wonderful, anywhere.

Yes – I’ve got it all planned out, dear, the clothes I’ll have to buy as soon as I’m out of uniform, getting married, buying a car, furnishing an apartment. I’ve studied my checking account – and you know, sweetheart, – if they’d only end this war – I’m ready to start right now. Maybe I ought to write Gen. Ike. But as Shakespeare wrote – “ … fires burn and cauldrons bubble ” –; we’ll wait until the fire is burnt out and then we’ll have it as we like it.

I’ll close now, dear, and in an hour or so – maybe we’ll have some mail. Until tomorrow, darling, – my love to the folks and

All my everlasting love
Greg.

* TIDBIT *

about Back to the Huertgen Forest



In early September Eisenhower had directed his allied forces to continue attacking on a broad front. His intent was to breech the German frontier and strike deep into Germany. First Army, commanded by General Hodges, would conduct a head-on attack against the Siegfried Line, penetrate and then drive on to the Rhine. Hodges had three Corps within First Army totaling more than 256,000 men. Arrayed north to south on the German frontier (as shown in the above map) was XIX Corps under Major General Charles H. Corlett in the north, VII Corps under Major General J. Lawton Collins in the middle and V Corps under Major General Leonard Gerow to the south.

An article called "Battle of the Huertgen Forest," written by Ernie Herr found on the 5th Armored Division's web site stated this:

Those that fought the battle from the American side were mostly from the high school classes of 1942, 1943 and 1944. They were to pick up the battle and move on after the classes of 1940 and 1941 had driven this far to the German border but now were too few in numbers to press on. These mostly still teenagers included championship high school football teams, class presidents, those that had sung in the spring concerts, those that were in the class plays, the wizards of the chemistry classes, rich kids, bright kids. There were sergeants with college degrees along with privates from Yale and Harvard. America was throwing her finest young men at the Germans. These youths had come from all sections of the country and from every major ethnic group except the African-American and the Japanese-American.

The training these young men had gone through at State-side posts such as Fort Benning was rigorous physically but severely short on the tactical and leadership challenges that the junior officers would have to meet. British General Horrocks (one of the few generals, if not the only general to do so) made a surprise front line visit to the 84th division and described these young men as "an impressive product of American training methods which turned out division after division complete, fully equipped. The divisions were composed of splendid, very brave, tough young men." But he thought it was too much to ask of green divisions to penetrate strong defense lines, then stand up to counter attacks from first-class German divisions. And he was disturbed by the failure of American division and corps commanders and their staffs to ever visit the front lines. He was greatly concerned to find that the men were not even getting hot meals brought up from the rear, in contrast to the forward divisions in the British line. He reported that not even battalion commanders were going to the front. Senior officers and staff didn't know what they were ordering their rifle companies to do. They did their work from maps and over radios and telephones. And unlike the company and platoon leaders, who had to be replaced every few weeks at best, or every few days at worst, the staff officers took few casualties, so the same men stayed at the same job, doing it badly.

The battle had begun on 19 September 1944 when the 3rd Armored Division and the 9th Infantry Division moved into the forest. The lieutenants and captains had quickly learned that control of formations larger than platoons was nearly impossible. Troops more that a few feet apart couldn't see each other. There were no clearings, only narrow firebreaks and trails. Maps were almost useless. With air support and artillery also nearly useless, the GIs were committed to a fight of mud and mines, carried out by infantry skirmish lines plunging ever deeper into the forest, with machine guns and light mortars their only support. For the GIs, it was a calamity. In the September-October action, the 9th and 2nd Armored Divisions lost up to 80 percent of their front-line troops, and gained almost nothing.

On November 2, the 28th Infantry Division took up the fight. The 28th was the Pennsylvania National Guard and was called the "Keystone Division" referring to their red keystone shoulder patch. So many of the Pennsylvania National Guard were to fall here that the Germans referred to them as the "Bloody Bucket Division," since the keystone looked somewhat like a bucket.


"Keystone Division" Patch

When the 28th tried to move forward, it was like walking into hell. From their bunkers, the Germans sent forth a hail of machine-gun and rifle fire and mortars. The GIs were caught in thick minefields. Their attack stalled. For two weeks, the 28th kept attacking, as ordered.

On November 5, division sent down orders to move tanks down a road called the Kall Trail. But, as usual, no staff officer had gone forward to assess the situation in person, and in fact the "trail" was solid mud blocked by felled trees and disabled tanks. The attack led only to more heavy loss of life. The 28th's lieutenants kept leading. By November 13, all the officers in the rifle companies had been killed or wounded. Most of them were within a year of their twentieth birthday. Overall in the Huertgen, the 28th suffered 6,184 combat casualties, plus 738 cases of trench foot and 620 battle fatigue cases. Those figures meant that virtually every front-line soldier was a casualty. The 28th Division had essentially been wiped out.